5 Questions to Ask Yourself If You’re Considering DIY Property Maintenance
If you're a startup landlord, it could be tempting to do your own property maintenance. After all, you could save some money on repairs with the idea of increasing your profits. But does maintaining your rental properties always pay off? Are there solid reasons for hiring contractors to do maintenance work? Or is it best to hire a property manager to take care of maintenance tasks?
Want more articles like this?
Create an account today to get BiggerPocket's best blog articles delivered to your inboxSign up for free
You may fancy yourself as a bit of a handy-person. And you’ve probably seen enough DIY shows to know your way around a toolbox. But is this enough to encourage you to do your own property maintenance? The question goes a little deeper than this.
There are some property maintenance tasks that you are probably capable of doing. However, this doesn’t mean you should rush to the sound of your tenant’s messages with wrench in hand. This article explores five key things to consider when deciding whether to do your own property maintenance.
1. Do you have the time?
Some rental property owners still have full-time jobs. Others can own and manage upwards of 20 or even 50 rental units. Regardless of the circumstances, you will be busy doing your own property maintenance. Ask yourself if you have the available time to handle each maintenance request.
On a similar note, you need to think about whether you can care for urgent requests promptly. For example, say you’re at your day job or some distance away. Is it reasonable to think you will get to your property quickly in the case of a burst pipe or no heat? How long will your tenant wait before they become agitated? Once you have thought about these two things, you can decide how much it will cost you to drop what you are doing to fix the issue.
2. Do you have the maintenance knowledge?
It seems so easy on the TV—right? Flip and fix contestants always seem to quickly learn how to patch up a wall or replace a damaged floorboard. What you rarely see is the team of professionals behind the camera teaching them how to do it.
Various tasks frequently crop up—like leaky faucets or a blocked drain. In this case, it is worth taking the time to learn how to fix the problem yourself. Trickier tasks can be harder to learn and require more time to master the skill, which circles back to the question of your available time.
3. Does the task require a licensed professional?
Remember the saying “Jack of all trades, master of none”? While it’s perfect if you have basic DIY skills to do small repairs, you will find there are limits. By law, landlords must maintain health and safety standards. For this, unless you have a license, you won’t be able to provide the necessary certifications for installing appliances or carrying out repairs.
Here are a few maintenance jobs that require a licensed contractor:
- Electricians: You need a licensed electrician for high-voltage projects, laying new electrical cables, loose wires, and fixing tripped circuits. Flickering or dimming lights can be a sign of the wrong voltage running to appliances.
- Plumbers: Even if a license isn’t required, it’s always best to get a professional plumber for fixing blockages and servicing water heaters. It is also highly recommended to use a professional for shower valve replacements and bathtub replacements because of the time and size of the job. Of course, you need a licensed plumber for any gas-related work.
- HVAC specialists: Use licensed HVAC professionals to carry out annual servicing to ensure systems run optimally. They will check the flue, ducts, and heat exchanger, replace filters, clean out the unit, and lubricate the motor.
- Environmental hazards: Licensed contractors may be required to fix problems related to mold or more serious hazards like lead paint and asbestos.
- Pest control: Preventative pest control and getting rid of pests is another job best left to the professionals. For example, traps and baits can be a health risk. Also, professionals know how to deal with large infestations.
Choosing to do the above tasks yourself will most likely lead to more problems. It’s best to call a professional.
4. How much do repairs cost?
Here’s a common scenario when landlords tackle maintenance jobs themselves. The landlord begins a fairly standard maintenance task. However, they make a mistake, don’t have the right tools or equipment, or the scope of the job is more extensive than expected. The result? The situation becomes worse. Eventually, they must call a professional, which leads to more expenses. In many cases, it’s faster, quicker, and more efficient to call a professional. This way, you can put your time to better use and keep your tenants happy
5. Can the tenant fix the problem?
Your tenant may be handier than you, or they may even be a licensed professional. Often, the perfect solution is literally under your roof. Making sure a complete toolkit is available on the property is a smart thing to do. You can also offer to pay for repairs or give a discount on the rent—but only if they are a professional.
If you find a handy-person in one of your properties, it is a good idea to keep them happy. You might find they are willing to help you out with other property maintenance issues in return for discounted rent or a little extra income. This could well be cheaper than hiring a contractor.
How property management apps help with maintenance
One excellent way to resolve many issues with property maintenance is to use a rental property management app. By choosing a property management app that features maintenance requests, you can keep all your communications in one place. Tenants can send a message with the issue and attach pictures. You can reply to the message, informing all the tenants or roommates of the solution. When you include maintenance workers and contractors, you can even assign tasks by sharing the maintenance request.
These technologies help you stay organized and save a mountain of time compared to receiving separate emails, calls, and messages. It also enables you to keep tenants informed faster, and, therefore, be more satisfied.
In conclusion, should you do your own property maintenance?
The question of if it’s wise to do your own property maintenance is a tricky one. You may be able to handle small repair jobs if you manage a few rental units. However, it’s best to consider the value of your own time and knowledge. Savvy landlords use property management apps to streamline many processes, including maintenance. You may find you have the spare time to respond to maintenance requests. With so many online tutorials, learning DIY skills is easier than ever before.
However, suppose the request is of high risk or requires certification from a professional. In that case, the only sensible option for your business is to call your contractor.